Driving a classic car is always an adventure. The combination of looks, smells, sounds, is addictive. There’s also always the worry that something could go wrong at any second. But when all goes right, nothing can replace the experience of driving an old car. I re-learned this when I took my 1960 Chevy Impala convertible out of storage in Milwaukee and drove it to its new home in Minneapolis.
My Impala is almost all original, and being 55 years old you can expect problems. It had been given to me by my grandfather two years ago, and since then I have been working on making it more roadworthy. Cosmetically it is in great shape, not a Concours car, but there are no real problems. Mechanically, I have already had plenty of mishaps, and have a contender for worst mechanic horror story.
Over the two years I’ve had the car, I have found a set of whitewall radial tires to replace the bias-plys, which improved the ride immensely. Anyone who has driven a car with bias-ply tires knows how stressful it is to drive on the highway with the car following every single groove in the road. I also went through two generators and voltage regulators. The second set of these was installed a year ago by a private small-town mechanic who had apparently worked on the car before. I also had him check over everything and make sure it would be able to handle longer drives. Upon picking the car up, I was told that the car had been wired incorrectly, and that he fixed it all so I wouldn’t get a constant generator light. Trusting that he knew what he was doing, I drove the car the hour and a half home. Near the end I got the generator light again on constantly, which meant the battery was discharging, and it stayed on even when the car was off and the key was out. Thinking that it was a simple case of the problem not being fixed, I parked the car in the garage and went inside. Minutes later, we hear a loud squealing coming from the car and find that the hood is billowing smoke. My dad opened the hood and i see my pride and joy burning in front of me! When we get the fire put out we found out that all of the wiring from the battery to the generator and voltage regulator was burnt to a crisp, but luckily nothing else on the car suffered. I immediately called the guy that “fixed” it and he basically denied any fault and said he would have to look at it to see what caused the fire. I wasn’t about to let him anywhere near the car again so I had it fixed by a family friend who restores classic Mustangs. He rewired the entire car, put an alternator and fuse in the car to prevent any future fires, and also installed seat belts. Since this took all summer, I was unable to drive the car at all last year except to put it back into storage, which brings us to a week ago.
When I went to get my car for the first time this year, I was nervous that I would be getting back into a sea of problems, but to my surprise, the car started right up and ran like a dream! I proceeded to drive it almost 350 miles from my parents house in Milwaukee to my home in Minneapolis, with no problems whatsoever.
I am still always surprised at how reliable this car is now, and the attention it gets. Like Doug and his Ferrari, I never get left alone when I stop for gas, and I have to worry about people going over the center line trying to take pictures. People are always surprised to see a 23 year old behind the wheel of a car like this when they expect to see a balding old man. Like I said before, nothing can compare to the joy of driving a perfectly operating classic car, cruising down the road at 70 with the top down, your girl snuggled up next to you on the bench seat, and the world at your fingertips. While my new BMW may get better gas mileage, is faster and has A/C and nav, my Impala makes the cliched feeling of freedom ring true more than any new car ever could.
Keep watching for more stories and adventures with my Impala.